(probably) Nina Kandinsky (the artist's widow)
Galerie Maeght, Paris (probably acquired from the above in 1951
Fernand Graindorge, Liège
John Schulte, New York
Otto Gerson Gallery, New York
Mr. & Mrs. Charles R. Lachman, New York (until 1970)
Felix Landau Gallery, Los Angeles
Private Collection, United States (acquired from the above in 1970 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 16, 1998, lot 61)
Private Collection, United States (sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 8, 2007, lot 23)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Berlin, Secession, 1909
The Hague, 1909
Dresden, Galerie Arnold; Berlin Galerie Neumann and Nierendorf, Jubilee Exhibition, 1926, no. 1
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Kandinsky, 1951, no. 31
Basel, Kunsthalle, Collection Fernand Graindorge, 1954, no. 57
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum; San Francisco, Museum of Art, The "Wild Beasts": Fauvism and its Affinities, 1976
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Kandinsky in Munich, 1896-1914, 1982, no. 265
Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Life and Work, New York, 1958, p. 330; no. 14, illustrated p. 350
Hans K. Roethel, Kandinsky, Das graphische Werk, Cologne, 1970, no. 113
Peg Weiss, Kandinsky in Munich, The Formative Jugendstil Years, New Jersey, 1979, no. 78, illustrated
Hans K. Roethel and Jean K. Benjamin, Kandinsky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, 1904-1915, vol. I, New York, 1982, no. 189, illustrated p. 193
Kandinsky's symphony of color, Weisser Klang (White Sound), exemplifies the development of the Russian artist's distinctive style, which would eventually lead to abstraction. The bright, vibrant palette and the fluidity of brushwork evoke music, which is also evoked in the title of the work. In his celebrated treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Kandinsky devoted an entire chapter to "color-language", discussing at length the relationships between colors and musical instruments, rhythms and tones, and establishing a link between music and colorful imagery. "The studied geometrical composition and the subtle color harmony convey the effect of a musical chord or Klang, a word Kandinsky used to characterize the effect by which the successful work of art communicates its inner meaning. The work of art, he said, must klingen, or resonate, so that the soul of the viewer vibrates with the same resonance" (Peg Weiss, op. cit., p. 51).
Of particular significance for Kandinsky, and for the present work specifically, was the poetry of the German Symbolist Stefan George. At the turn of the century, George had a following of poets and artists that became known as the George-Kreis, or Circle of George. There are direct parallels between Kandinsky's art and the imagery of George's Jugendstil poetry which was characterized by the sound of the words rather than their specific meaning. The visual harmony of their design on the page was as important to the poet as their sound. Evidently Weisser Klang and a later woodcut of the same subject from 1911 (fig. 3), which appeared in the publication Klänge, illustrate George's poem Weisser Gesang (White Song):
If I could envision the white dream for her...
It would seem to me in the castle that bitter rays permeated
And pale blossom-trees only embraced
So the dream could run away with two children's early daydreams
Each of them seeming to embrace a slender bouquet
Brightly flickering like a gentle quaking aspen
A silver sash as a pennant
Would swing high above their weak foreheads
And both would come slowly to the pond
Sometimes swaying on the broad marble steps
Until at the beat of the nearby herons' wings
Their arm's soft burden heavily swaying
Scented mists swirling in from cool naiads
With whom the united ones became lighter and lighter
Floating upwards towards higher realms –
Until they were one with the pure ether-down.
Peg Weiss suggests that the "reclining figure on the right may be the 'dreamer' referred to in the poem, the figure on the left - the woman, and the floating form to the right above them is the 'white dream, like a white cloud touching earth'" (P. Weiss, op. cit., pp. 89-90). Other possible references to the poem include the 'quaking aspens,' the "two children" (here one might take the two figures on the right as the two children; on the other hand, it has been suggested that one figure seems to carry a child, which might refer to the "soft burden" in the third verse); the "castle" or churchlike structure in the background, and the "pond" (which is evident in the foreground of the woodcut). "At the conclusion of the poem, in a cloud of sweet vapors, the dreamy forms rise and fade into the ether. The painting particularly has the same amorphous quality; the forms seem to fade into one another while the `white sound,' or dream, or song dominates the whole" (ibid., p. 90).
Pictorially, the present work reflects the important influence of Fauve painting on Kandinsky. During his stay in Paris from May 1906 until June 1907, pictures by artists including Braque, Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck and Van Dongen were exhibited and received extraordinary attention in the press. The following year Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter spent their first summer in Murnau, a small Bavarian village south of Munich, where they began to incorporate an expressive, Fauve-like use of color (figs. 1 & 5). Their impact on Kandinsky is visible here in the bold chromatic combinations, as well as in the use of strong, unmodulated color applied in broad brushstrokes. The Fauves' approach to painting represented for Kandinsky a natural extension of his own visual and theoretical explorations, based on the Russian folk art and icons characterized by a similar use of color and form (fig. 2). In Weisser Klang, Kandinsky juxtaposed the bright yellow, pink and orange with cooler blue, green and purple tones, producing the effect of a symphonic explosion of color.
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